I’ve been working towards my exhibition, Sea Caves, Shipwrecks and the Rocky Shore, at the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe from 25th February until 13th April. Ilfracombe is full of stories of smugglers, pirates and wreckers with place names like Brandy Cove and Samson’s Bay, named it is said after an infamous smuggler. Hidden beaches only accessible through tunnels, cut through the cliffs by Welsh miners in the Victorian era. One of these tunnels itself was a mighty cave which William De Tracey took refuge in 1170 after the murder of Thomas A Becket. October 9th 1796 is another key date in Ilfracombe’s maritime past, the day the London was wrecked at Rapparee Cove, adjacent to the harbour. Its cargo was prisoners of war, from the West Indies, passengers and a quantity of gold and silver and Ivory.
Right now is a great time to have an exhibition in the town because of its association with Damien Hirst. His artwork is made in a factory on the edge of Ilfracombe and a café, 11 the Quay, is decorated with his original artwork also a couple of months ago a huge statue of his, Verity, was installed on the harbour side. So Ilfracombe is becoming an Art Mecca? I hope so, and that my exhibition at the Theatre will add to its attraction.
Two of the pieces in this show are brand new and have never been seen. They are from the rocky shore below Hillsborough, where the London was wrecked. Many other images have never been seen before in North Devon. My next major exhibition in September is on the sandy coast of North Carolina, where this work will tour the Maritime Museums for a year.
Sea caves, shipwrecks and the rocky shore starting at Roses cafe, Crooklets beach, Bude. I’ve run this workshop at Sandymouth a couple of times in the past but have always started from the cafe there; this time as it’s winter I started in Bude. Roses cafe is an ideal starting place, opening at 10 AM and surving good coffee. Sue and Rob, taking part in the workshop, both had plenty of questions and open minds with very different needs. One had a DSL, the other a compact camera. Both had adventurous spirits and a love of the outdoors and of the coast.
After what seems like a year of rain and a mild Christmas today was a gloriously bright sunny Sunday. We trecked north along the beach from Bude towards Northcott mouth. Studying the geology of the magnificent cliffs, with contorted rocks, with artists eyes. I introduced them to scenes with high contrast deep shadows and bright highlights. The human eyes and brain can see detail in all of these places but the camera has a limit to what it can record. I demonstrated this limit, but in a positive way, by allowing some shadow areas to go very dark or black lacking detail, but drawing attention to well lit areas within a composition. We continued to photograph what the sea had revealed on the beach as we walked north. Spending a little of our time photographing a small natural rock arch over rock pool. 1 mile north of Bude is what’s left of the Belem. This 2000 ton steamer was wrecked in dense fog in 1917. Various parts including the boiler and firebox are still visible.
Meninchurch point lies just on the cliff side of this wreck and in this headland is a great cave which was our journey’s goal. We made our way through the great boulders at this cave’s entrance and scrambled up to the back rock wall.The cave looked splendid, full of wonderful forms including what are clearly the ripples of an old beach seen in the vertical rock face on one side of us. However, it did not look at its best as it was very dry inside, the tide having left three hours previously which made the interior quite dull, flat and grey. But it was a good place as a teaching exercise, shooting into the light and having to prevent flair from flattening the shadow areas of the interior. Our presence in the cave, attracted a family with young children and dog to come exploring too. I’d like to think our being there had encouraged a family to come exploring where without us they may not have had the confidence. The photograph on the left long and thin, was made using the iPhone is panoramic mode. The photograph at the top was made using the auto stitch app. After the photo shoot we went back to the cafe downloaded images and I demonstrated some enhancements in photo shop. These included processing a raw image using photoshops software, combining images together, cropping, and generally making the images look there best with very subtle alteration.
Looking back over the day, it is often the unexpected things that participants gain the most from: Sue now has a ‘working’ tripod and Rob can confidently used his camera in the manual mode.
“Thanks for a really interesting and instructive day! Thank you again, the day has made me realise where my interest really lies and has prevented me spending money on things I can do without!” – Sue Lane
I started 2013 as the guest speaker at Holsworthy Camera Club. My chosen topic was the development of my photographic arts practice I call ‘Constructed Photographs’. This ‘talk’ continually develops and this evening I based my technique in the making of an image of the nearest cave to Holsworthy at Northcott Mouth, just north of Bude. It didn’t surprise me that only one person in the audience knew where the image was from as one can walk from Bude to Sandymouth at low tide without noticing the magnificent cave hidden in the base of the cliff, at Menachurch Point, behind a scree of massive menacing boulders. The other developmental addition was the inclusion of panorama and stitching technology available now even on phones. My new iPhone 4S (circa 2011) has an interesting panorama function on its camera much like an old ‘short rotation camera’ eg the 35mm Horizon camera. But my best Christmas present to myself was an iphone app called ‘AutoStitch’. Obviously it doesn’t compare favourably to a professional dslr, photo merge in Photoshop combined with the skill of an experience photographer but; it is an amazingly powerful app to have on a phone! The above image was created, in haste, as the Camera Club Chairman, Roger, introduced me at the beginning of the evening.
The older you get, the larger your network of friends, the greater the frequency that cancer rears it’s ugly head. The pain and grief it brings is shared amongst so many not directly affected by it. It was a real joy to be asked if I’d make an image for Barnstaple’s Chemo Appeal for this Christmas. I’m hoping many people will be inspired to give to the appeal after seeing the cheery seasonal photograph.
These ‘painting with light’ photographs are never as easy as they look. This took 9 photos to get all of letters looking readable, plus another to add a little more light into the sky and trees. Thanks to Julie Whitton for organising it and to the 11 volunteers who stood out in the cold for an hour making this picture right.